Because we have so very much stuff and because so much of it goes sadly to waste, I pledged to use, give away, or dispose of at least one household object for every day in September. I covered the first baker’s dozen here, and here are the rest. Continue reading
This small apartment is crammed full of stuff — most of it mine, and much of it so very crammed in that we can’t get at it.
I keep paring down. I dropped off several big boxes of clothing at Goodwill and still I can’t see the back of the closet. I gave away a food processor and I still have two left. If a guest admires a [book/scarf/toy/kitchen tool], sometimes I give it to them on the spot and thank them for taking it.
The place is still littered with toys, games, DVDs still in their cellophane, shoes I’m waiting to break in, shoes I stopped wearing, beautiful trinkets that we were given and don’t need, winter coats that are too fancy, winter coats that aren’t fancy enough, books jammed into boxes where we can’t read them, favorite dresses hanging in the back of a deep closet where I forget them, luxurious bath oils turning sour and stale on the shelf, down comforters balled up under the bed getting musty.
My mindset of scarcity creates so much sad waste. I’m saving those bath oils, that velvet dress, those perfect shoes, that lovely down throw, the most delicate wineglasses, the expensive bottle of spirits, the crisp linen dish towels handed down from my grandmother, the folded swath of uncut lilac fabric. I’m saving them for LATER. I’m saving them for BEST.
But if BEST never comes, if it is never LATER, then those luscious goods, those indulgences, those luxuries… they sit and molder on the shelf.
I’ve made a resolution for September: each week, I pledge to use or dispose of at least seven unused, underused, or forgotten objects: one every day, or a week’s worth all at once, however it works out. No matter how much I give (or throw) away, the count resets each Sunday: if I toss out or rehome 30 items on September 1st, I still have seven to go the next week.
Expect the updates to be excruciatingly dull for everyone but me. After all, I’m the one unearthing those velvet dresses, drinking the expensive spirits, giving away toys, and opening up space in my cramped home.
Though September hasn’t started, I have: some construction in our building forced us to clear out a long-ignored closet. I threw out a dozen spoiled, soiled, spilled, or otherwise unsuitable objects.
Good things make life good. Some of the good things are small, some of the good things are big, and all of the good things are good.
– fresh-baked anadama bread, fragrant with molasses, chewy with oats and whole wheat, and hot from the oven. I love the way it fills the whole apartment with its rich, wholesome scent.
– wrapping Christmas presents, which gives me a marvelous calm feeling of accomplishment. And the penguin wrapping paper I picked up at Local Surplus & Salvage Shop is pretty darned cheery.
– snow! Granted, by the time I got outside in it, it was just lashings of cold and wet, but still: SNOW!
– hot tea with milk and the faintest lacing of sugar.
– anadama bread again, because it’s just that good. Also, because I’m making a second batch already.
– bright red coarse-weave fabric (also from Local Surplus & Salvage Shop) for reupholstering the Danish modern chairs Gaoo gave me. (She rescued them from the junk pile at our parents’ old house, so they’re endearingly familiar, too.)
– Nick Hornby’s About A Boy.
– The sweetest husband in the world, who knows me inside out and upside-down and who loves me with all my flaws.
This will tell you all you need to know about our housekeeping:
I heard a ghastly rumbling whoosh from the upstairs apartment and cast my eyes upward, wondering what the hell was going on up there. The Great Dane scrabbling on the floor? Radiator pipes clattering and flushing? Some new Wii game?
Oh. They’re vacuuming.
Do you ever have that dream where you find a new room in your home? If you have, you know the one I’m talking about: you’re trundling along doing your daily household chores and then — buWHA? — you walk past a door that was never there before. You open it and find a new room, open and fresh and uncluttered. It’s empty, but full of possibilities.
Sigh. I love that dream.
The Fella and I have been kicking around a new floorplan for our dollhouse-sized apartment. And by that, I mean I’ve been graphing out rooms and layouts, and he’s been nodding at them and cheerfully saying, “Sounds great!” and “Whatever you want!” and “I’ll move everything!”
This isn’t as gendered as it sounds, with the suggestion of the fussy little woman who wants to pretty up the house and the gentle lug who silently moves every stick of furniture just a skosch to the left. Indeed, our situation flips some gendered expectations on their heads. I can easily maneuver imaginary items in imagined three-dimensional space and translate graph layouts into actual rooms of furniture, and he cannot, which makes design discussions impractical for us. He’d much rather jump in and move stuff around.
(Of the two of us, I’m also the one with the toolbox, who knows where the hammer is, who got all excited about the cordless drill, who has a nodding acquaintance with the folks at the hardware store, who takes stuff apart to see how it works. When a recent guest remarked that he’d finally got the hang of our awkward bathroom door, The Fella proudly piped up “No! It works now! Elsa fixed that!”)
Still, this new plan does require us to move just about every item of furniture in the place, and by “us,” I mean “him”; even if my back allowed me to drag furniture around, my husband will not. If the new layout doesn’t work,
we’ll he’ll have to move every item of furniture back, too.
But for the past day or two, whenever I examine the graphed-out floorplan or look around the rooms and imagine them re-arranged, I get that odd floaty sensation, as if I’m dreaming. As if I’m dreaming the dream of the extra room.
At 4:25 a.m., I dragged myself out of an unyielding bed in an airport hotel in San José, and spent the next 14 hours muddling my way through airports, only to arrive in infamous Logan airport bereft of my checked luggage. Evidently the suitcase so enjoyed the worldly sensation of being waved through Customs that it decided to stay in Miami.
I am even more screwed than you might think: since airport security examined my keyring and advised me to stow it in my checked bag (lest I should yield to the temptation to overthrow the flight crew with an extra-large, blunt-tipped safety pin trinket), I can’t go home until my bag arrives. At 6:00 pm in Boston, they were hopeful that delivery might occur as soon as Tuesday morning.
Yes, that was when I momentarily burst into tears. The young baggage agent looked so distraught that I assured her that I knew she was doing everything she could, and that it must be difficult for her. She immediately brought my file back up on her terminal and pecked determinedly at the keyboard, her phone tucked under her chin.
By the time I arrived at my parents’ house in Maine, the baggage delivery agent, who is not supposed to be working tonight and who further doesn’t deliver to Maine, had left a message to expect him between 2 and 4 am. That young baggage agent is my new hero, followed closely by Curtis the delivery guy. By the time he arrives, I will have been up for nearly 24 hours, but I am determined to thank him (and tip him) in person, and to shower my filthy way-laid bag with kisses before wrapping my arms around it and snuggling down for a long winter’s nap.
Tomorrow, there will be less talk of airports, sleeplessness, and filthy baggage, and more talk about glorious Costa Rica.
My description of the hectic but satisfying week that is (ostensibly) ending today was as remarkable for its dullness as its brevity, so I deleted the whole damn thing. Instead, here are the simple pleasures my evening holds:
Perhaps because the weather has suddenly turned cold, the apartment is overrun with spiders of bewildering variety: wispy gray spiders that seem at first glance to be mere motes of dust, fat black spiders like bloated licorice jelly beans, leggy little chestnut-colored spiders, and even one repulsive white spider, its chitinous body and legs outlined only in shadow as it scuttered across the white wall away from my desperately whacking shoe and toward freedom.
Yes, I am whacking at them. Usually, I am one of those saps who fishes the spider out of the tub on a string or a card, then escorts him or her outside, but instinct took over when the spider I found in the tub was the size of a plump raspberry. A big, black, fast-moving raspberry with a stubborn exoskeleton. Shudder.
The new downstairs neighbor has an electric bass. He
plays practices for several hours a day, and into the night and early morning. Although he turns the volume down gradually as the night wears on, the clumsy haphazard vibrations travel up from his amp, spreading as they rise to shake my apartment floors. In the living room, I can feel the bass thumping up through the soles of my feet when standing and through my bum when sitting on the futon. Worse, though, is the unsavory Magic Fingers effect it gives the entire bedroom, changing the ambience from luxurious little chamber to sleazy motel.
Although I find this tedious, inconvenient, and nerve-wracking (maybe my reaction will improve when his
playing practicing does), I know he is being reasonable (or nearly so) about his volume, and I havet felt moved to discuss it with him.
This evening, I was getting some static on my half-assed rabbit-ears TV reception, which is piped through my stereo, so I was treated not only to the pervasive thrumming from downstairs but also the occasional blast of friendly-fire static from my own speakers. Correcting the rabbit ears took several minutes of fiddling and a good bit of Nancy-Drew-style invective (“Well, my word —- Goshdarnit, stay put”), so it only gradually dawned on me that each wave of static was met with a caesura from downstairs. Indeed, unless my ears deceived me, during sustained bursts of static I heard something very like the sound of an amp switching channels. By the time I fixed my reception, he had evidently given up and unplugged.
update: Since the experiment is based not on positive reinforcement but on aversion conditioning, it would be more like the Little Albert experiment. Of course.